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Hiking – what we have learned

April 16, 2017

Saturday was our first hiking date for the 2017 season.  As we started our 4th year of Bruce Trail hiking, we talked about some of the things we have learned.

Start slow: There is no point in being overly ambitious the first hike of the season.  A 10 or 12 km day is fine, but plan that on the first hike of the year and odds are it’s not going to get the hiking season started on a high note.

Factor in the weather forecast: Building on learning #1, if it’s going to rain on the first hike of the season (or you may encounter a lot of mud and/or snow due to recent weather conditions), subtract a couple more km from the initial plan for the day.  A one day hike in the rain or on muddy trails isn’t impossible, but the day is greatly improved when you aren’t going too far.

Look at the contour lines on the map: On the first day out, look for flat sections.  No need to pick a section of the trail where the map has lots of close contour lines that the trail crosses over and over and over again.  And whenever possible, read the guide book and map and try to figure out if going a certain directly means less up hill sections that going the other direction.  Whether you hike north or south, you are still doing the entire trail.

It doesn’t hurt to have a back up plan: As we are both people who like to have a plan, when it looks like the potential for heavy rain, having a back up plan to just meet and go shopping seems to make all the planning and date booking worth the effort.  Note for the record, we did not go shopping and we did hike in the rain.

The road/hard packed (or paved) trail will be fine: I have written about this before, but when you can see the trail blazes from the road or packed trail, and that trail is windy, rocking, includes several ups and downs, and potentially muddy; you will be happier if you just still to the road.  There will be plenty of other sections windy, rocky, up/down, and potentially muddy trail to hike when their is no road (or paved trail) in sight.

Don’t forget that the purpose is to enjoy it: We have learned many things over the past 3 years that reduce the risk that we will end up being cranky.  Our goal of hiking the entire Bruce Trail did not include doing it quickly, nor did it include hiking in all weather conditions.  We continue to push ourselves to hike in rain, and heat, and when the bugs are bad.  But we also continue to make choices about how far we go, which sections we pick on which days, and about when we hike to ensure that the majority of the time we are still enjoying ourselves.

So yes, the 2017 hiking season has begun.  We may not get out as many times this year as last year, but that’s okay too.  Yesterday we did just under 8 km through Hamilton.  There was a light rain the majority of our hike.  We slowed down enough to look at the sites and waterfalls, but didn’t feel the need to stop and take photos.   We enjoyed lunch under the Red Hill Parkway overpass, happy to find a spot that was sheltered from the rain, and the weather was on our side, as it rained the hardest as we sat there eating our lunch.  Overall it was a good day.  It was a good day, because we applied the lessons we have learned.  Failing to apply what we have learned may result in us completing the entire trail more quickly, but we would be missing the point of it all, if we didn’t enjoy it.

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